Shoulder boards during the eighties

Soldaten, Gefreiter and Matrosen

The metal bars were produced from 1972  up to the very end in 1990 to replace the ribbon bars that were stitched on the shoulder boards. It’s hard to say when they actually stopped producing the stitched version. Both versions were used simultaneously until the beginning of the eighties / end of the seventies.  During the eighties the stitched version was still used but because stock slowly ran out most soldiers/sailors used metal bars during the last decennium. There were also cloth stripes that could be mounted on shoulder boards (photograph on the left). A small cloth bar indicates that a soldier is in a NCO School. These cloth bars were available every colour of all the branches. The thicker green bar that is show on the photograph on the left indicates a board guard soldier is the leader of a pack of two soldiers on patrol at the border. This postion is called ‘Gruppenführer’.  One could only be a Gruppenführer when having the rank of ‘Gefreiter’. During the eighties the rank of Stabsgefreiter officially still existed, but wasn’t really used anymore. When used one would have probably been a demoted NCO. Career

Rank on picture Rank in Landstreitkräfte / Luftstreitkräfte / Grenztruppen Rank in Volksmarine / Grenzbrigade Küste, Grenztruppen -Bootskompanien
1. Soldat Grenztruppen (1971- .... ) Soldat Matrose
2. Obermatrose Grenzbrigade Küste (1971 - .... ) Gefreiter Obermatrose
3. Stabsgefreiter Luftstreitkräfte / Air force (1971 - ..... ) Stabsgefreiter Stabsmatrose
4. Stabsgefreiter combat uniform (1971 - ..... ) Stabsgefreiter Stabsmatrose (these camouflage shoulder boards were not issued in the navy)
5. Stabsmatrose Grenzbrigde Küste (1971 - ..... ) Stabsgefreiter Stabsmatrose
6. Stabsmatrose Grenztruppen Bootskompanien (1972 - 1990) Stabsgefreiter Stabsmatrose

Unteroffiziere/Maate and Feldwebel/Meister

Metal career symbols for shoulder boards (Metalauflagen)


As said before 1983 only 'Meister' ranks wore these 'Metalauflagen'. After 1983 these were worn by all career navy ranks from Matrose up to and including Fähnriche. One of the raisons for the usage of these Metalauflagen is the discontinuation of the double chevron on the NVA uniforms that made it more difficult to distinguis non career and career soldiers. In the army and airforce it was easy to distinguis these two types of soldiers by the fabric of their uniform but in the Navy this wasn't always the case because they had the same type of uniform. There were 8 types of metalauflagen for 8 types of branches: Seemännische (anchor with rope  / not dispayed ), Technische (chainring / c.), Verwaltungs (caduceus/ d.) , Juristische (shield and swords / a.), Musikdienst (lyra/ e.), Marineflieger (propellor / f.), Kustendienst (anchor without rope/ b.), Medizinische (esculape/ g.) laufbahn. The only two types of metalauflage that were worn by both officers were the lyra and the esculape. This type of metalauflage was worn by bandsmen/physicians officers of the navy, airforce and army. For lower bandsmen ranks in the airforce and army there was a silver coloured Lyra availabe made of aluminium.

The light blue piped navy shoulder boards (#7.) were introduced in 1986 after in 1985 the Naval Air Force was formed. The same type of shoulder boards was also designed for sailors (#1.). Volksmarine 'Meister' ranks wore their 'Laufbahnabzeichen' (career symbol) on their shoulder boards (#11.) since 1956 but in 1983 all the career soldiers wore their 'laufbahnabzeichen' on their shoulder boards due to new regulations. Mounting the pips on the shoulder boards is quite simple but it should be done in a proper way. New regulation of 1980 states that the core of lowest pip(s) should be placed 2,5 cm from the bottom of the shoulder board. The core of the upper pip should be 2 cm above the lower pip(s). If there is a need for a career symbol for navy carreer soldiers or a bandsmen this distance of course differs and is adapted (#11). 

Rank on picture Rank in Army / Airforce / Border troops Rank in Navy / Grenztruppen Bootskompanie
7. Maat Marineflieger / Naval Airforce (1986 - 1990) Unteroffizier Maat
8. Unterfeldwebel Panzer / Tank (1971 - 1990) Unterfeldwebel Obermaat
9. Feldwebel Felddienstuniform / Combat uniform Feldwebel Meister
10. Oberfeldwebel (Artillerie) Oberfeldwebel Obermeister
11. Stabsobermeister (Volksmarine / Militär Justiz Laufbahn) Stabsgefreiter Stabsobermeister


The shoulder boards on the left were introduced in 1983. From 1974 up to 1983 there were also Fähnrichschüler shoulder boards but these were in the same style as #7 (Unterofficier/Maat) but only with white, pink, red, yellow, black and light/dark green piping as well as Volksmarine Maat shoulder boards with dark blue piping and a golden metal F on it.  Of course there were also grey shouder boards for the field suit with a grey metal F. Fähnrichschüler shoulder boards with an embroided F were never produced. In 1983 an official 2 year education of Fähnriche was started. The course had to be completed either at an Military academy  (OHS) or at a military technical school. One could be a Fänrichschüler as a conscript or non-commissioned officers, who committed for 15 years of service. After 1983 the same types of shoulder boards existed as before 1983. Sometimes there can be for example found Naval Aviantion, GBK or Paratrooper Fähnrichschüler shoulder boards but these were never produced and should be considered as a fantasy item. In all branches this rank was refered to as Fähnrichschüler. 

Rank on picture / Rank in Navy, Airforce and Army
12. Fähnrichschüler im 1. Studienjahr / Felddientuniform (1983 - 1990) *
13. Fähnrichschüler der Volksmarine in 1. Studienjahr (Navy) (1983 - 1990)
14. Fähnrichschüler im 2. Studienjahr / Pioniere (1983 - 1990)
* This type of shoulder board wasn't worn by Fähnrichschüler of the navy. Instead of these shoulder boards regular navy shoulder boards #13 were worn on the field uniform by all navy personell.



Soldiers that went to a military academy wore this type of shoulder boards during their educational period. The number of stripes on the shoulder board indicate in what educational year a Offizierschüler is. Normaly an educational periode would take 4 years of military academy. But for example medical students would have an education of six years at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt military medical Academy in Greifswald and would have up to six stripes on their dark green piped shoulder boards. Shoulder boards with 1 up and including 4 stripes were produced with white, pink, red (artillery), yellow, black, dark green, light green (grenztruppen) and orange piping. The orange paratrooper Offizierschüler shoulder boards were only issued in 1986 (3th and 4th educational year) and in 1987 (2nd educational year). Before 1986 all paratrooper Offizierschüler wore white piped shoulder boards. Shoulder boards with 5 stripes were only produced and issued with yellow piping (1985-1990) and with dark green piping (1975-1990) or ofcourse without piping for the field uniform. Shoulder boards with 6 stripes were only produced in dark green piping and without piping for the field uniform. All the other shoulder boards with 5 or 6 stripes with different piping were never really produced nor issued.

Rank in picture
15. Offizierschüler Aufklärung / Mot. Schützen Berufs- Hochschulreifeausbildung (1975-1990)
16. Offizierschüler im 1. Studienjahr Artillerie (1975 - 1990)
17. Offizierschüler im 2. Studienjahr Luftstreitkräfte (1975 - 1990)
18. Offizierschüler im 3. Studienjahr field uniform (1975 - 1990)*
19. Offizierschüler im 4. Studienjahr Volksmarine (1975 - 1990)
* Not worn by Offizierschüler of the Navy


In the NVA and in the border troops of the GDR, in 1973, in accordance with Ministerial Decree No. 168/73, the rank Fähnrich was introduced and positioned between the professional NCOS and officers. At the end of 1979 three new types of Fähnriche ranks were added: Oberfähnrich, Stabsfähnrich and Stabsoberfähnrich. With the Fähnrich rank came a patch on the left sleeve in grey/silver for the Army and airforce and in blue/gold for the navy. From 1973 -1979 there were 3 types of arm patches: with 1 , 2 or 3 stars on it. 1 star for 10 years of service, 2 starts for 15 years of service and 3 stars for 20 years of service. At the end of 1979 there was a new patch introduced without stars. From that moment on all Fähnriche wore the same patch . The bottom fabric of these shouder boards differs sometimes just like the shoulder boards of junior officers (see 'junior officers' below).

Rank on picture / All branches had the same name for these ranks
20. Fähnrich (Felddienst / Field uniform) 1974-1990
21. Oberfähnrich (Luftverteidigung) 1979-1990
22. Stabsfähnrich (Rückwärtige Dienste) 1979-1990
23. Stabsoberfähnrich (Marineflieger) 1986-1990

Different types of Naval shoulder boards for Matrosen up to and including Fähnrich ranks:

Dark blue piping: Volksmarine

Green piping: Grenzbrigade Küste and Grenztruppen Bootskompanien

Light blue piping: Naval aviation branch


Officer's  shoulder boards of the naval branches only had one colour either dark blue, light green (same shoulder boards as Grenztruppen for the GBK and Bootskompanien) or light blue (same shoulder boards as the Airforce for Naval Aviation branch / Marineflieger).




Junior officers


The rank of Unterleutnant was mostly used for OaZ (Offiziere auf Zeit) or Fähnriche that were promoted at the end of their carreer before retiring.

Junior officer's shoulderboards were available for all branches and haven't really changed during the years. The fabric that reveals the branch has been made of different materials during the years. In the late 80's you will see mostly a thin and smooth cotton-like type of fabric and before the eighties there were variants made out of 'biesentuch' (a more wooly type of fabric). An exception can be found with the shoulder boards of the paratroopers. These shoulder boards were only made of biesentuch till the end of the NVA in 1990. Medical officers or bandsmen officers can be recognized by a metal 'dienstlaufbahnabzeichen' (lyra or esculape) placed between the pips on their shoulderboards. In 1984 regulation for Auflagen changed for the rank of Oberleutnant. Before 1984 the right order was button-pip-Auflage-two pips. After 1984 it changed to button-Auflage-pip-two pips. For the rank of Hauptmann nothing changed. It remained button-pip-Auflage-pip-two pips.  


Rank on picture Rank in Army / Airforce / Border troops Rank in Navy / Grenztruppen Bootskompanie
20. Unterleutnant 1962-1990 (Grenztruppen) Unterleutnant Unterleutnant
21. Leutnant 1962-1990 (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit) Leutnant Leutnant
22. Oberleutnant 1973-1990 (Felddienstuniform / field uniform) Oberleutnant Oberleutnant
23. Hauptmann 1962-1990 (Artillerie) Hauptmann Kapitänleutnant

Senior officers

There were two types of senior officer shoulder boards used in the eighties. The latest model that was discontinued in 1985 is recognisable by the four equal silver treaths of 3 milimeter. The other model that was introduced in 1985 is also made out of 4 treaths but the outer two are double the size (4 milimeter) as the inner two (2 milimeter).

One should be aware of the fact that these shoulder boards come in pairs consisting a left en a right shoulder board. The smallest loop (at the opposite side of the Button-Side) should be at the front.

The career Auflagen were always placed between the button and the pips. The smallest loop (at the opposite side of the Button-Side) should be at the front.

Rank on picture Army / Airforce / Border troops Navy / Grenztruppen Bootskompanie
Major -1985-1990 (Grenztruppen) Major Korvettenkapitän
Fregattenkapitän 1956-1985 (Volksmarine) Oberst Fregattenkapitän
Oberstleutnant 1959-1990 (Felddientuniform) Oberstleutnant Kapitän zur See (this type of shoulder board was not used in the Navy.

General ranks


Shoulderboards of generals were made in two different types. Flat shoulder boards to put on a blouse and thicker shoulder boards for the uniform jacket and great coat. Just like the shoulder boards of the senior officers they come in pairs with a right and left one.